People’s judgmental attitude in internet comments sometimes drives me mad

I often interact with the people who comment on stuff I post on the Charley Project’s Facebook page; I consider it my duty, as the admin of that page, to do so, and also I usually enjoy discussing things with them. We are, after all, talking about items of mutual interest. But sometimes people just… argh.

I put up an article recently written about the Bianca Noel Piper case (the article was of the “we’re still looking for” variety, nothing new), and immediately a bunch of commenters started saying awful things about her mother for making her go on that walk back to their house so she could chill out and deal with her anger. One of them even accused the mother of “abandoning” Bianca.

Well, here are the facts:

  1. The walk was about a mile. That’s not very far. It may seem like a long way since everyone is accustomed to driving these days, but a person Bianca’s size and age can walk a mile in ten or fifteen minutes.
  2. It was a rural area, not a big city.
  3. Bianca’s mother cooperated fully with the investigation and is not a suspect in her case.
  4. Bianca’s mother, by making her go for a walk, was following the advice of Bianca’s therapist, and they had tried the walking treatment before and it had been helpful. Loads of people go for a walk alone to cool down when they’re angry, and it’s a commonly recommended method of anger management.

I’m sure Bianca’s mother has regretted what she did every day of her life in the past sixteen years. But I do not think she did anything wrong here. She was following medical advice and the advice given sounds perfectly reasonable to me. I think Bianca was just very unlucky. And certainly casting judgment on her mom at this late date is not going to help at all.

Bianca was tall for her age, and heavy. I think that in the evening light, from a distance, she would have looked more like a woman than a child. My guess is some predator driving by saw her walking alone and grabbed her. Wrong place, wrong time.

I also grew up in a rural area and in the late nineties, as a young girl Bianca’s age, or younger, would often wander around by myself on foot or bicycle, sometimes traveling up to fifteen miles from home. It did me no harm and in fact I benefited from it. I got exercise and fresh air and learned how to amuse myself. It bothers me a lot that so much judgment is heaped on parents these days that it seems like they are expected to swaddle their youngsters in cottonwool until they graduate high school — and then people wonder why young college-age adults have no idea how to take care of themselves.

17 thoughts on “People’s judgmental attitude in internet comments sometimes drives me mad

  1. Karen March 16, 2021 / 4:44 pm

    I agree with every single thing you’ve said in this post.

  2. Danielle Lysinger March 16, 2021 / 6:15 pm

    It’s so aggravating and disrespectful that people would make comments like that. It’s usually those that don’t read all the information provided about the case. If they had they would of known that by Bianca being told to walk home was a tactic suggested by her therapist. It was also during a time when we as kids (I was born in 1983) could be outside without having our parents worry like they do now. Thank you for all you do to keep the missing from being forgotten.

    • missingmysteries March 17, 2021 / 6:09 am

      Good points. FWIW, I was born in 1973, and in 1983 (through 87, I believe) I was what’s known as a “latch-key kid”; I got home from school before either of my parents got home from work, so I was home alone for an hour or two every afternoon.

      The worst things I did during that time were:

      …attempting to make a batch of cookies (I did not follow any recipe; I mixed water and flour into a paste then baked it)

      …playing with the contents of a broken thermometer which my mom (who in spite of this was her class valedictorian) left out on a plate in the kitchen because it looked “cool” as liquid mercury tends to…and she left no note explaining what these little silver balls on a paper plate were, so I thought they were those edible little silver balls you put on Christmas cookies, and proceeded to spend quite a while trying to pick up these silver balls and put them in my mouth…I mean, doesn’t everyone have a wistful childhood story about trying to eat liquid mercury? No?

      …getting locked out of the house by my dog pushing the door shut and having to climb back in via a window (in retrospect this probably set the stage for me using the same window to sneak in/out as a high schooler

      …and (IMO probably the worst/riskiest, though heavy metal poisoning is certainly up there) occasionally being left an envelope with some money in it for the newspaper delivery man to pick up on his route while I was home alone.

  3. J. Leon March 16, 2021 / 8:38 pm

    I didn’t bother looking at the offending comments-sorry, I don’t do Facebook-so I am constrained to agree with your assessment of them. That said, I’ve always felt there are just too many things with this case that just don’t neatly fit.

    For instance, your take on the circumstances: “The walk was about a mile. That’s not very far. It may seem like a long way since everyone is accustomed to driving these days, but a person Bianca’s size and age can walk a mile in ten or fifteen minutes.”

    Well, from Bianca’s description, she was 5 feet 6 and weighed 185 pounds. I’m sorry, but that’s more than just “tall for her age, and heavy”-even an adult woman that height, let alone a 13-year-old girl, would be considered morbidly obese. Now let’s do the math. A mile in ten minutes would require walking-no, trotting-at an average clip of six miles an hour. Doing it in fifteen would require Bianca to average four miles an hour. Not impossible by any means, but likely?

    Then: “It was a rural area, not a big city.” In other words, not a prime prowling spot for “predators.” Remember, that’s one of the things that helped trip Susan Smith up. Black carjackers were spread rather thin on the ground in rural South Carolina. I’d also think that a wayward Missourian wanting to score a young teen would be more likely to cruise near a mall or junior high in St. Louis, Kansas City or Springfield rather than a back road in Lincoln County.

    Also the timing. She takes her daughter out at 6:15 in the evening on March 10? Remember that back in ’05 daylight saving time still started on the first Sunday of April, not March. The sun would have been setting as they left, and by the time she reported Bianca missing two hours later it would have been pitch dark. That and the impending subfreezing cold would, in my view, argue against her deciding it was time for another walk-which per your entry they’d only done once before.

    With all that taken into account, though, let’s say she did decide on having Bianca take a hike. It’s still far more likely the trouble Bianca ran into was with someone local-and someone she probably knew, and who knew her-than with a stranger.

    I’m convinced, as I’m sure you are, that poor Bianca is still 13. I just wish I could share your conviction that all those closest to her really don’t have a clue as to whether she did-or-why and how she didn’t-make it to 14.

    • Meaghan March 16, 2021 / 10:35 pm

      I checked a BMI calculator. It says 5’6 and 185 pounds is overweight but not obese, certainly not morbidly so. Though pretty close to obesity. The healthy weight range for that height is between 115 and 154 pounds.

      I think it is likely that the person who did this was a local man, for the reasons you mention. But I also think it’s likely that the person just happened to see her walking alone.

    • missingmysteries March 17, 2021 / 6:21 am

      Apparently you did not “do the math”; her height/weight combo does not meet the criteria of “morbidly obese”.

    • Dawn Marie March 17, 2021 / 9:55 am

      Though I don’t think Bianca meets the strict definition of morbid obesity, I wonder if the criteria might be a bit different due to her age? I mean, most of the height-weight charts you see are for adults.
      While I do think her mother acted in good faith, that doesn’t mean she necessarily acted with good judgment. Or that her therapist did either. Therapists have made the news for recommending or practicing things that turned out to be dangerous or even deadly. Remember several years ago a girl died of asphyxia during a rebirthing session orchestrated by a therapist?
      The fact that Bianca had only tried this walk-it-off once before, the fact that it was getting dark, and very cold and she was wearing only a sweatshirt, and the fact that she was allowed to be driven farther away from home than she had been on that single walk before, all bother me. Also, Bianca had trouble with impulse control and judgment. She might have seen or thought she had seen something in the woods and wandered off to look at it and got lost. Or if someone drove up and asked if she needed a ride, she might not realize that she shouldn’t accept a ride from a stranger, or that if she knew the person, the whole point of her being out there was to walk off her anger. She was more vulnerable than other kids due to her severe mental problems, and if she got into trouble out there there wouldn’t be anyone around to hear her if she called for help. And she wasn’t reported missing for two hours; she’d have had to walk pretty fast for a fat kid to make it home in fifteen minutes, but two hours is far longer than even a slow walker would take and long before that time somebody should have been out beating the bushes for her. It’s even possible she impulsively decided to hide out or go someplace else rather than go home and she ran into trouble then.

      • Meaghan March 17, 2021 / 12:43 pm

        I expect her mom would have gone out looking for her on her own before calling the cops, so she probably was “beating the bushes for her” before two hours had passed. I doubt the cops would have taken her seriously before that amount of time anyway, given Bianca’s age and the fact that they’d just had an argument. “My teen daughter didn’t return home after we argued and it’s been an hour” doesn’t exactly sound like an emergency.

    • missingmysteries March 23, 2021 / 8:20 pm

      J. Leon:

      I’d like for you to explain to me why, as a young female at 5’8” and 185 pounds, I was able to hike five miles three times a week and weight train two days a week, because according to your “math”, I should have been a blob incapable of walking one mile within one day. I await your insight.

  4. missingmysteries March 16, 2021 / 10:29 pm

    Thomas Rettew:

    “Investigators believe the man Angela was involved with have vital information in her case.”

    …of course, it should read “has vital information in her case”, not “have”. I’m not criticizing, I’m just helping to point out random typos. Your site is incredibly good, informative, and well-run. And previously I asked you if it’s okay to point out any minor issues such as this and you responded that yes, being made aware of errors is welcomed. So I hope it’s okay that I noted this particular typo. Thank you for your hard work! 🙂

    • Meaghan March 16, 2021 / 10:30 pm

      Thanks for pointing that out. I will fix it!

      • missingmysteries March 16, 2021 / 11:20 pm

        Hey, I’m sorry Meaghan, I caught another one, in the write up for Angela Christine Mack:

        “Angela left her Thomas in the care of”

        …I think you meant “Angela left her SON Thomas in the care of”…

        Thanks again for what you do!

      • Meaghan March 16, 2021 / 11:20 pm

        No need to apologize. Will fix, thanks.

      • missingmysteries March 17, 2021 / 6:57 am

        Another, in the April Bailey file:

        “Bailey has the following tattoos: the names “Isaiah”, “Savahna” and “Manuel” on her left left,”

        I’m guessing that “left left” should be “left leg”?

  5. stacy from San bcisco March 17, 2021 / 1:05 pm

    Like one of the other writers, I don’t do Facebook either. However, I am well aware of the “shaming” that permeates social media in overwhelming amounts. Many sit at home spewing disapproval and judgement at every single action
    they perceive as wrong, different or just a tiny bit imperfect.
    I am so hoping we as a society will move beyond this tendency to blame and shame everyone who dares to either make a mistake or choose an “out of the
    box” approach. Where is the compassion, kindness and unity we so desperately need now?

    Sorry will remove myself from the soap box

    .Mothers have a long history for being blamed for everything. Yes, moms make
    mistakes , and some unfortunately do
    commit heinous acts, but many mothers are just trying to do the best they can. And, as a mother of a special needs child, I know moms like me are often desperate to try new approaches. We do not need judgment from others because if they are like me, we judge ourselves enough, No one can ever know the desperation and loneliness that accompanies
    having a chelid who is difficult to parent

    I feel terrible for that mother. She must be feeling a depth of guilt and self that many of us will hopefully never have to face. I hope
    someone in her life is kind and supportive. This was not her fault.

    • Meaghan March 17, 2021 / 1:07 pm

      A very wise friend of mine says people shame moms in situations like this to comfort themselves. It’s easier to say “her kid was kidnapped cause she did something wrong, I would never let my kid walk home alone so therefore my child will never be kidnapped” than to admit sometimes terrible things happen to people for no good reason and it could happen to them too.

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